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Ranking 133 College Football Teams at Midseason, With a New No. 1

SportRanking 133 College Football Teams at Midseason, With a New No. 1

Sign up for the Until Saturday newsletter | Jayna Bardahl and The Athletic’s college football staff deliver expert analysis on the biggest CFB stories five days per week. Get it sent to your inbox.


It’s rare that a monster game lives up to the hype. We’ve now had it happen two weeks in a row in college football, shaking up the rankings.

Last week, Oklahoma beat Texas with a touchdown in the final seconds. This week, Washington beat Oregon with a late fourth-down stop, a touchdown and a missed Ducks field goal as time expired. We knew Washington looked like world-beaters up to this point. The Huskies just hadn’t played anyone notable. Placed in one of the biggest games of the year, Washington and Michael Penix Jr. delivered. As a result of the 36-33 win, Washington takes the top spot in this week’s Athletic 133.

Penix took control of the Heisman Trophy race with his performance and a seemingly never-ending supply of good wide receivers. The Huskies aren’t perfect, but they game-planned well with a banged-up offensive line, and the defense got the stops when they needed them, keeping Oregon to 0-for-3 on fourth downs.

It’s a top-three win for any team this season, also up there with Texas beating Alabama on the road and Oklahoma beating Texas on a neutral site. That Oregon win, coupled with the strong play otherwise (including a win at Arizona that looks a lot better recently), moves Washington to No. 1 for now. But we’ve got a lot more top-10 matchups coming this year.

Here is this week’s Athletic 133.

1-10

Other than Washington’s move up to No. 1, the only other changes in here include Michigan hopping past Penn State to No. 7 and North Carolina sliding into No. 10 after taking care of Miami. On the Michigan point, the Wolverines leap the Nittany Lions because their Rutgers win is now essentially equal to Penn State’s West Virginia win (though neither is very notable), and Michigan has been so dominant otherwise. As I say every week, Michigan looks extremely good. The Wolverines just don’t play anyone notable until Penn State on Nov. 11. If they win that game, they’ll rocket up near the very top, just like Washington did. As for the comparison to Georgia, the Bulldogs have a blowout top-30 win against Kentucky. Meanwhile, Ohio State and Penn State meet this coming weekend.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Auerbach’s Top 10: Washington takes No. 1, UNC enters the mix

11-25

Rank Team Record Prev

11

5-1

9

12

6-1

18

13

6-1

13

14

6-2

14

15

5-1

15

16

5-1

19

17

5-1

20

18

6-1

12

19

5-2

21

20

6-1

23

21

6-0

35

22

6-1

36

23

5-1

33

24

6-0

34

25

4-2

16

Oregon slips just out of the top 10 to No. 11. While the Ducks played well and nearly beat Washington on the road, they don’t have a notable win to justify a top-10 spot at the moment, unlike Texas. Oregon State sits just behind at No. 12 after a 36-24 win against UCLA. Louisville was the most difficult team to place this week. The Cardinals lost to Pitt 38-21 but remain at No. 13 because their lopsided win against Notre Dame last week looks much better after the Fighting Irish beat USC. I can’t yet justify putting a two-loss Notre Dame ahead of Louisville after what we just saw last week, so they remain in place for now. It’s always natural to move teams each week after a win or loss, but previous games matter, too.

After a bunch of losses from the bottom of this group, a handful of Group of 5 teams slide into the top 25, including Air Force (No. 21), Tulane (No. 23) and James Madison (No. 24). The Falcons and Dukes are undefeated, while Tulane beat Memphis on the road. Iowa also jumps up to No. 22 after beating Wisconsin on the road to move to 6-1. Whatever you think of the offense and the injuries, the Hawkeyes keep winning.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Ubben: Iowa to the College Football Playoff? Avert your eyes — but it’s possible

26-50

Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were also very difficult to place, just outside the top 25. They all have similar records, but Kentucky walloped Florida, which beat Tennessee. I wanted to put Florida and Tennessee in the top 25 after Kentucky lost to Missouri, but I can’t do it quite yet because of that Kentucky-Florida result.

Arizona makes another big leap up to No. 30 after finally getting a breakthrough win, destroying Washington State 44-6 one week after taking USC to overtime and losing to Washington by just seven before that. Quarterback Noah Fifita (342 passing yards) has changed the trajectory for the Wildcats. Oklahoma State similarly makes a big jump to No. 36 thanks to a quarterback decision (Alan Bowman) that has fixed things, with consecutive wins against Kansas State last week and Kansas this week. The Jayhawks don’t fall behind the Cowboys, though, because starting quarterback Jalon Daniels didn’t play in Stillwater.

Miami (No. 39) and Texas A&M (No. 40) continue to tumble after losses. Iowa State has won three of its last four games since a loss to Ohio, which stunningly lost to Northern Illinois this weekend. And Liberty finally played a somewhat notable opponent, handling 5-1 Jacksonville State to move up to No. 38. Troy is also back on track with a 19-0 shutout of Army, its fourth consecutive win.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

What we learned in CFB’s first half: Pac-12 peaking, UGA cruising, and who’s ‘back’?

51-75

Georgia State moves up to No. 51 after a 41-24 win against Marshall to get to 5-1 on the season. A lot of teams dropped out of the top 50 after losses, including Memphis (No. 54), NC State (No. 54), South Carolina (No. 55), Auburn (No. 56) and Texas Tech (No. 63). There were more drops from the likes of Arkansas (No. 62), Syracuse (No. 64) and Cal (No. 65) with losses. Texas State, meanwhile, escaped ULM to move to 5-2 overall and up to No. 68, while UNLV beat Nevada to get to 5-1 and move to No. 69.

UTSA seems to have rounded into form with Frank Harris playing again, beating UAB convincingly to move to No. 71, and Virginia Tech has won two of its last three after beating Wake Forest 30-13 to move up to No. 72.

76-100

Houston (No. 78) beat West Virginia on a Hail Mary and Colorado State (No. 84) beat Boise State on a Hail Mary, but other previous results keep both teams from moving higher for now. Michigan State blew a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead against Rutgers and continues to fall apart, now down to No. 88 with Michigan coming to town next week.

USF is a very difficult team to place. Since playing Alabama close and winning the next two games, the Bulls have lost to UAB and FAU convincingly in the last two weeks and have tumbled to No. 93. Army continues to struggle, getting shut out by Troy and dropping to No. 95. Central Michigan (No. 94) is a tough team to play, beating South Alabama but losing to Buffalo and holding on to beat Akron 17-10 this week.

101-133

No. 101 Northern Illinois has wins against Boston College and now Ohio to go with losses against FCS Southern Illinois and Tulsa. But over the last three weeks, the Huskies seem to have turned things around. Keep an eye on them. Sam Houston, still looking for its first win as an FBS program, fell behind quickly to New Mexico State and tumbles down to No. 132. But Nevada, with its 16th consecutive loss, this one to rival UNLV, remains No. 133.

The Athletic 133 Rankings series is part of a partnership with AllState.

The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over or input into the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

(Photo: Jesse Beals / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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